Skip to comments.Blackwell’s harsh letter fans flames of GOP feud (Ohio)
Posted on 04/30/2004 10:00:51 AM PDT by Deadeye Division
Blackwells harsh letter fans flames of GOP feud
Friday, April 30, 2004
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who expressed outrage earlier this week about a plot by a handful of fellow Republicans to destroy his political career, is raising money for a 2006 gubernatorial bid by bashing several top Ohio GOP leaders.
Gov. Bob Taft, Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery, Auditor Jim Petro, House Speaker Larry Householder and state GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett all are criticized in a fund-raising letter mailed last month by Blackwell.
"Our leadership is selling our partys positions to the highest bidder," Blackwell wrote in the four-page missive.
Adding that he is running for governor "to restore the distinction between Republicans and Democrats," Blackwell wrote that many leading GOP figures are "espousing policies closer to Dick Celeste, Teddy Kennedy and Bill and Hillary Clinton than Ronald Reagan."
Blackwells prickly money plea adds fuel to a blaze already stoked by the revelation that top Householder aides had prepared a secret 109-page blueprint for an $8.5 million campaign to bolster the speakers political fortunes while at the same time "taking down" Blackwell. Householder, a possible candidate for state auditor in 2006, said the plan was never implemented although Blackwell contends otherwise.
Republican leaders have expressed concerns the intraparty feuding will detract from the campaign to deliver Ohio for President Bush in November.
"Its not helpful to the Republican family when were attacking each other in any forum," said Taft spokesman Orest Holubec. "The governor has said 2006 is a long way off and that our elected officials should be focused on the job they are elected to do and not on advancing their personal ambitions."
Bennett said, "I do expect our statewide officials to set aside personal and political ambitions long enough to accomplish the task at hand, and thats re-electing George Bush."
The longtime GOP chairman said Blackwell was showing a "double standard" with his criticism of the unimplemented Team Householder plan when he had already sent out the strongly worded letter.
"This is some pretty bitter rhetoric, and Im really sad that Ken would sink to this level. This letter is kind of the ultimate hypocrisy, after singing the blues over a hit piece directed at him that never went anyplace," Bennett said.
"Hes willing to knife his own party in the back just to advance his own political career. These are the same people who worked very hard to get him elected."
Blackwell said yesterday there is no "moral equivalency" between his letter and the Team Householder plan.
"Theres nothing in my letter that is duplicitous or intimidating in nature," Blackwell said. "Have I in fact gone hard at policy disagreements? Absolutely . . . This is a hard-fought struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party."
In the letter the first under a "Blackwell for Governor" logo Blackwell told potential donors the GOP ascended to its current prominence in Ohio politics because of its conservative philosophy. Republicans occupy all nonjudicial statewide elected slots and hold large majorities in both houses of the legislature.
"However, because Gov. Taft and other statewide and legislative Republican officials are abandoning these positions when it comes to governing, we are in danger of losing everything!" Blackwell wrote.
He wrote that Householder "sold out our principles" by failing to pass legislation limiting lawsuits, even after a pair of "business friendly" justices were elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2002. Instead, Householder raised thousands of dollars from trial lawyers as far away as Texas, so "is it any wonder that no tort reform bill has found its way to the governors desk?"
Householder also has stalled efforts to pare Medicaid payments to nursing home owners and expand prevailing wage exemptions on state construction projects, Blackwell wrote.
Householder spokesman Dwight Crum returned Blackwells fire.
"This is typical of the attacks on the speaker and members of the legislature that have been going on for a year," Crum said. "Were still waiting for his (Blackwells) plan to cut spending responsibly without gutting programs for children, without gutting programs for seniors, and still rebuild the economy."
Blackwell ripped Bennett for calling Blackwells petition drive to repeal last years state salestax increase a "publicity stunt."
"The man elected to lead the party of Ronald Reagan in Ohio is publicly ridiculing an effort to lower the taxes of all Ohioans," Blackwell wrote. "The credibility of the Republican Party is called into question when the chairman of the state party says a grass-roots effort to restore fiscal integrity and lower taxes would cripple our economy and cause children to go hungry."
Blackwell pointed to "clear distinctions in policy positions" with his potential rivals for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Neither Montgomery nor Petro supports the sales-tax repeal or Ohios new law allowing most residents to carry concealed weapons. Petro doesnt back the Defense of Marriage Act approved this year, Blackwell wrote.
Full text of Blackwell letter
Friday, April 30, 2004
BLACKWELL for Governor
829 Bethel Road #316, Columbus, Ohio 43214
I was not born a member of the Republican Party. I chose the Republican Party because its core tenets matched my personal philosophy.
Less government spending
Job-creating economic policies
When I chose the Republican Party 23 years ago, Ronald Reagan was President. I, like millions of Americans, admired Ronald Reagan because he was a great leader who stood tall for these principles as the best way to produce economic prosperity and the opportunity for a better life for all Americans.
Campaigning on these positions is the reason Republicans have consistently won in Ohio over the last decade.
However, because Governor Taft and other statewide and legislative Republican officials are abandoning these positions when it comes to governing we are in danger of losing everything!
I will speak more to this point later in this letter and ask you to help me prevent it.
In 1983 and 1984, I worked alongside other Republicans to fight the outrageous income tax hike that Dick Celeste and the Democrats in the General Assembly forced upon us.. Later in the decade, I worked with Jack Kemp to change public policy to empower millions of Americans with the ability to own their home.
During my time as State Treasurer and Secretary of State, I have spoken out about the need to keep taxes low so you could keep more money in your pocket. In 1998, I was the only statewide official to openly fight against an attempt to hike the sales tax. With a grassroots driven effort, we defeated the tax increase 4 to 1 in a statewide vote.
But taxes can't be kept low if spending of your tax dollars isn't kept in check. As Secretary of State I have "walked the walk" by lowering my office's reliance on general fund tax dollars by 64%. At the same time, we have significantly upgraded our customer service and productivity.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Ohio state government as a whole over the last decade. Our state spending has increased 70% over the last 10 years, the highest rate of any state in the nation.
In 2003, the General Assembly passed and our Governor signed the largest tax increase in our state's history to feed their unrestrained spending. They hiked our taxes $3 Billion without a vote of the people, violating their campaign pledge to us - and they did it to fund an 11% increase in spending!
Last summer, after studying the effects of this runaway spending, I said, ''Enough is enough!''
Ohio's "first in the nation" spending title has created havoc with our economy. Jobs are leaving our state at an alarming rate, 118,000 manufacturing jobs last year alone. Young people are going elsewhere to begin their careers and start families. Retirees are taking their lifetime of savings to other states to avoid our suffocating estate and income taxes.
So I began an initiative to repeal the 20% sales tax hike. In approximately 60 days, we collected over 157,000 signatures from Ohioans. It was a record grassroots effort and demonstrated the strong feeling that our government was wrong to increase taxes rather than cut spending.
As you would expect, those who passed this record tax increase to feed out-of-control government spending said our effort would have catastrophic effects on our state.
However, unlike those we fought in 1983 and 1984, this time it is Republicans who are using the Chicken Little rhetoric to defend their actions. Yes, Republicans are saying the state can't survive without the largest tax increase in our history!
Governor Taft promised the voters in 2002 that there would not be a broad-based tax increase without a vote of the people. I believed him and campaigned with and for him. Now he is being openly critical of my efforts.
The Ohio Republican Party Chairman called our repeal effort a :publicity stunt. The man elected to lead the party of Ronald Reagan in Ohio is publicly ridiculing an effort to lower the taxes of all Ohioans.
In fact, my actions are consistent with my long-held views and the platform of the Republican Party. I am standing up for our Party's principles.
To fight our effort, Governor Taft went to the public employee unions and asked them for help. I was shocked and dismayed when I read about his actions in the notes from the December 2003 Executive Committee meeting of the Ohio Education Association.
The person you and I supported to be the standard bearer for the Republican Party in Ohio was asking a group that gives 90% of its political contributions to the Democrat Party to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to prevent our effort to end this outrageous tax hike.
Those who are fighting our tax repeal effort are calling me an outsider. Leaders of our Party say l am not a team player.
I am writing you today to say if being a part of the inner circle means abandoning my conservative principles and the platform of the Republican Party then I will not do it!
Let me give you another vivid example of where some of our elected leaders have sold out our principles.
In 2002, millions of dollars were raised to elect an Ohio Supreme Court that would be more "business friendly." We had seen enough of what a Court bought by trial lawyers was like.
Well, we won both of the Supreme Court races. But let me tell you the rest of the story.
At the same time Speaker Larry Householder and others were saying they would pass tort reform if we elected Supreme Court candidates who would uphold the law, the Speaker was raising thousands upon thousands of dollars from trial lawyers from as far away as Dallas, Texas.
In fact, in 2002 the trial lawyers gave more to Republicans than Democrats.
Is it any wonder that no Tort Reform bill has found its way to the Governor's desk?
The same story can be told regarding the effort to expand prevailing wage exemptions for state construction projects and to reform Medicaid reimbursement to nursing home owners. These two items alone would save our state budget hundreds of millions of dollars each year!
Our leadership is selling our Party's positions to the highest bidder.
Let me (sic) perfectly clear on one point. I am in fact running for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2OO6. I am doing so because I have the ability to lead our state.
I am also running to restore the distinction between Republicans and Democrats. Presently, as the examples cited above clearly show, there is no distinction.
There are clear distinctions in policy positions among my potential 2006 gubernatorial primary competitors, Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro, and me.
Neither Betty Montgomery nor Jim Petro support the 20 % sales tax repeal initiative.
Neither Betty Montgomery nor Jim Petro would have signed the recently passed bill allowing for the carrying of concealed weapons.
Jim Petro doesn't support the Defense of Marriage Act passed by the General Assembly.
I know that you have generously given of your funds to elect me and other Republicans to statewide office and the majorities in the legislature. But you don't want this type of leadership.
You want the type of leadership we got from Ronald Reagan and are getting from George W. Bush who didn't forget his campaign promise to cut taxes, not raise them.
The rest of the Ohio Republican leadership is espousing policies closer to Dick Celeste, Teddy Kennedy and Bill and Hillary Clinton than Ronald Reagan.
The credibility of the Republican Party is called into question when the Chairman of the State Party says a grassroots effort to restore fiscal integrity and lower taxes would cripple our economy and cause children to go hungry.
In fact, I have already laid out a specific plan to rein in spending that won't cause chaos.
It is a sad day for our Republican Party when our elected Governor goes to the public employee unions and pleads with them to help him keep the largest tax increase in Ohio history.
The Republican Party I want to lead as our next Governor stands strong and firm for its fundamental beliefs. I will never ask those groups that make up the core of the Democrat Party to attack fellow Republicans who are acting like true Republicans.
It is time for a change. Please join me in my campaign to be Ohio's next Governor. I need your ideas, your energy and, of course, your financial support.
Your generous maximum contribution of $2.500 would be greatly appreciated.. If you can only give $1,500, $1,000, $500, $250 or $100 now, that would be equally welcome. Your personal check should be made payable to Ohioans for Ken Blackwell.
Additionally, I want to invite you to serve on my campaign team to advise me on the best economic policies to bring Ohio back to greatness. You have ideas that will stop the flow of jobs and young people from our state. I want to hear them. If you would like to serve, please indicate so on the response form.
You may also go to my website, www.kenblackwell.com to make a contribution and join my economic advisory team.
The Republican Party must stand up for our beliefs. We must return to our core principles of reducing taxes, lower spending and creating jobs to provide for prosperity. Millions of dollars will have been wasted unless we elect a leader in 2006 who is true to our Party and his campaign promises.
I want to be that leader. I hope I have earned your support.
Thank you for your time and willingness to read this letter.
J. Kenneth Blackwell
P.S. Over 5,000 people were involved in collecting 157, 482 signatures in just 60 days to repeal the sales tax increase. It was the largest grassroots effort in Ohio history and showed just how mad the voters are. Thousands of people will stay home and not vote in 2004 and 2006 unless we show them we are truly the Party of lower taxes and less government. Please join my team today with your most generous contribution and active involvement.
WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH, HE called me a RINO ping....lol
WHAM!you hit the nail on the head.Blackwell is a guy that gets my vote.
When Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell are in the same room, someone has to go get an adult.
By pandering for coronation as darling of the Republican right, Householder and Blackwell have embarrassed their party, themselves and, maybe, unwittingly undermined their chances of winning statewide office in 2006.
That these two blindly ambitious southern Ohioans might be sent packing by voters Householder back to Perry County and Blackwell home to Cincinnati would be a fate richly deserved.
The two have played childish bullies ever since Blackwell took the overtly political step in September of forming a committee to seek voterrepeal of the temporary penny-onthe-dollar increase in the state sales tax rightly enacted by Householder and fellow Republicans to balance an already cut-to-the-bone state budget.
Rather than simply advocating repeal of the tax, Blackwell immediately embarked on a course to set himself apart as the GOPs only true conservative statewide officeholder.
Accused of leading the tax-repeal campaign solely for political gain, Blackwell pointed to his long record of advocating lower taxes and smaller government.
But he undermined his own credibility with a March tax-repeal fund-raising letter that cynically broke Ronald Reagans hallowed 11 th Commandment. Blackwell enraged GOP leaders by castigating them for espousing policies closer to "Teddy Kennedy and Bill and Hillary Clinton than Ronald Reagan."
Blackwell also used the letter to attack Householder and Gov. Bob Taft, who signed the tax increase into law. And he blistered his GOP rivals for governor in 2006, Attorney General Jim Petro and Auditor Betty D. Montgomery, for supporting the tax increase. Blackwell couldnt resist a cheap shot at Petro and Montgomery by contending neither "would have signed the recently passed bill allowing for the carrying of concealed weapons."
If Blackwell were so committed to the tax repeal as good policy, why not just make that case without attacking leaders of his own party? The letter exposed Blackwells true motive to use the tax-repeal campaign as a vehicle to imprint his conservative credentials for the expected 2006 gubernatorial showdown with Petro and Montgomery. It showed a ruthless willingness to divide his own party to further his ambitions.
The tax vote and Blackwells attacks put Householder in a pickle. While he acted responsibly by getting House Republicans to pull Ohio, albeit temporarily, from the throes of a budget crisis, Householder is preparing to run for state auditor in 2006 with a potentially politically fatal taxincrease vote on his record.
Oh, sweet justice! For years, Householder and his band of nasty boys Team Householder have strongarmed Statehouse lobbyists and GOP corporate sugar daddies for campaign contributions to buy television ads to bury Democratic and Republican opponents alike.
A favorite tactic has been to simply lie in TV attack ads, assigning taxincrease votes to candidates who never voted for a tax increase or, in the case of a recent GOP House primary race, label an incumbent who actually voted against the salestax increase as a tax-raiser.
And now here sits Householder, his path to statewide office threatened by a tax vote. "Its his tax increase," a 109-page document written by Team Householder lamented, perhaps previewing words destined to appear someday in an anti-Householder attack ad.
The document, written in January, was leaked last week, with devastating consequences for Householder. With Machiavellian arrogance and Nixonian duplicity, the document detailed an $8.5 million campaign to be led by Householder to defeat Blackwells taxrepeal effort.
True to Team Householders modus operandi, it wasnt enough simply to defeat the tax repeal. The document elaborately outlined a plan to destroy Blackwells political career, while duping Democrats, labor unions and private groups into supporting a campaign "to help underwrite Larry Householders political future."
Maybe Blackwell and Householder will make peace and run as a team for governor and lieutenant governor in 2006. Ohioans deserve a chance to send them a message.
Joe Hallett is senior editor at The Dispatch.
Maybe Bob Bennett didnt get out soon enough. The Republican state chairman thought he had problems before in lining up his thoroughbreds for the statewide starting gate in 2006.
Now hes got to be scratching his head over how to keep the GOP aspirants from killing each other before 2006 even gets here.
Bennett, nearing retirement age, needs to be concentrating on getting out the vote for President Bush and Sen. George V. Voinovich, not settling food fights in the Republican dining hall.
The latest episode has House Speaker Larry Householder and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell at each others throat, making the sparring between Auditor Betty D. Montgomery and Attorney General Jim Petro for governor in 2006 look like a marble game in the schoolyard.
Not that Bennett isnt up to the task. In 1989, he skillfully persuaded Bob Taft to drop out of the next years primary contest for governor with George Voinovich and to run for secretary of state, which the GOP badly needed to control the process for drawing state legislative districts.
In 1998, he induced Blackwell to back away from a clash with Taft for the good of the party, and there has been room at the table for all Republicans since then.
Until now. Knives, forks and other weapons of individual destruction are in play.
Blackwell got under Householders skin last year by declaring that he could produce a better budget than the Republican legislators did and without raising the sales tax from a nickel to six cents on the dollar.
Householder fired back, saying it was easy to carp about the budget, but that Blackwell never had to deliver critical services to the people and come up with the votes to fund them.
Blackwell loudly announced a campaign to repeal the penny on the sales tax which is worth $1.3 billion a year six months early, earning Householders contempt.
What we didnt know until last week was that the speakers political cadre, known to themselves as Team Householder, had an $8.5 million plan to not only combat the repeal but to make Householder so popular that hed be a natural player for statewide office in 2006.
The plan, written secretly in January, was kept under wraps until it leaked out a week ago, proving to be another embarrassment to Householder, who has been raked before on his heavyhanded fund-raising and campaigning style.
Press Secretary Dwight Crum took the rap for writing the plan, to which political operatives Brett Buerck and Kyle Sisk contributed. Crum said Blackwells continued hostility toward his boss ate at him until he sat down at his personal computer and wrote in a fit of pique and frustration.
Crums flying fingers produced 109 pages of a campaign plan down to the finest detail before the anger wore off. He ended with a disclaimer that the document was only a draft for internal consumption and had nobodys approval.
"I dont know how anything like this could be put in writing," Bennett said last week in promising to try to get Householder and Blackwell together to drink some sort of ego-reducing toast. He didnt get a chance to invite them before Blackwell vetoed the idea.
Only those who live and breathe political campaigns could have put this document together. It covered all the bases. Its not unusual for political strategists to map out plans for their bosses, but most never see the light of day until the proper time, if then.
Consultant Jerry Austin, a Democrat who just happens to be plaguing Householder with a spate of negative TV commercials, chortled at the Republicans dilemma.
Austin used to do the dirty work for Gov. Richard F. Celeste and Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr., who was secretary of state and attorney general in the Democrats glory days. "I kept em all in my head," Austin answered when asked how come nobody ever leaked out his strategies.
The Householder leak was reminiscent of 1997, when Senate Democrats left in a committee room the draft of a plan on how to hang the Republicans on raising taxes for school-funding and then running against them on the issue.
Republicans shut the Democrats out of the process, the school-funding problem was only half-solved and the Republicans won all the elections after that.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Bennett will have to step lively to stem the tide of disarray. And Householder, who will be out of office in January, will have to get a new plan and hope the Republicans are in a forgiving mood.
Lee Leonard covers the Statehouse for The Dispatch .
Householder vs. Blackwell
Internal attack memo is an embarrassment to states Republicans
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Maybe Ohios Republican leaders can blame the intraparty blood-letting on the Democrats. Had the other party put up a fight in the past decade, Republican officeholders might not be slashing each other.
Two combatants risk mucking up their political chances in 2006. House Speaker Larry Householder, who covets the state auditors job, and Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, presumably a candidate for governor, were bruised in the family feud.
Team Householders 109-page blueprint for boosting the speakers political stock while undercutting Blackwells was not illegal, but it was pretty stupid. Why do political operatives put such thoughts in writing?
The leaked document forcefully sets out a strategy for destroying Blackwell. The attack would be propelled by an $8.5 million campaign to defeat Blackwells initiative to repeal a temporary sales-tax increase approved by the General Assembly in 2003 and signed into law by Gov. Bob Taft.
That Householder would battle Blackwell over the political opportunism of a tax-repeal drive is hardly surprising. But ruthless tactics, seen as business as usual in politics, often backfire as people who land on enemy lists fight back. Richard M. Nixons mind-set was captured on audiotape; Larry Householders was spelled out in writing.
The document played into the hands of Blackwell, who referred to Householder and his staff as "thugs and racketeers." But how is Blackwell going to boost his political capital by attacking the party leadership whose support he needs? His anger at other Republicans expressed in a fundraising letter is astonishing, accusing the party leaders of "selling our partys position to the highest bidder."
The House speaker has downplayed the blueprint as an internal memo that went "over the top" and promptly was discarded by him. He would have the public believe that a lengthy clarion call for political battle was a mere memo that didnt have his approval. Dwight Crum, Householders press secretary, fell on his sword for writing this "overly aggressive" report, but theres no doubt who really runs Team Householder.
It wasnt the first damaging leak. In March, an anonymous memo made public accused Householders fundraising efforts of fraud, bribery and kickback schemes. The claims were "half-truths, innuendoes, rumors and outright lies," Householder responded.
Those charges emerged after news reports of strong-arm tactics used by the speakers fund-raising team. Blackwells office referred the allegations to two U.S. attorneys based in Ohio.
The disclosure of the plot to "dismantle Blackwell" ends up embarrassing statewide GOP leaders, including Ohio GOP Chairman Robert T. Bennett and Taft, whose spokesman called the memo "garbage."
Intraparty fights in a minority party often are a healthy sign of an organization struggling to redefine itself to win its way back into the majority. But in a party holding a monopoly on power, a fight like this likely is a sign of decay. Only a party smug in its supposed invulnerability would allow personal rivalries to trump unity.
Those who engage in these fights also should remember that political ruthlessness has a dangerous recoil that frequently destroys the one who unleashes it.